Upper-airway collapsibility and loop gain predict the response to oral appliance therapy in patients with obstructive sleep apnea

Bradley A. Edwards, Christopher Andara, Shane Landry, Scott A. Sands, Simon A. Joosten, Robert L Owens, David P. White, Garun S. Hamilton, Andrew Wellman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Oral appliances (OAs) are commonly used as an alternative treatment to continuous positive airway pressure for patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, OAs have variable success at reducing the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), and predicting responders is challenging. Understanding this variability may lie with the recognition that OSA is a multifactorial disorder and that OAs may affect more than just upper-airway anatomy/collapsibility. Objectives: The objectives of this study were to determine how OA alters AHI and four phenotypic traits (upper-airway anatomy/collapsibility and muscle function, loop gain, and arousal threshold), and baseline predictors of which patients gain the greatest benefit from therapy. Methods: In a randomized crossover study, 14 patients with OSA attended two sleep studies with and without their OA. Under each condition, AHI and the phenotypic traits were assessed. Multiple linear regression was used to determine independent predictors of the reduction in AHI. Measurements and Main Results: OA therapy reduced the AHI (30±5 vs. 11±2 events/h; P<0.05), which was driven by improvements in upper-airway anatomy/collapsibility under passive (1.9±0.7 vs. 4.7±0.6 L/min; P<0.005) and active conditions (2.4±0.9 vs. 6.2±0.4 L/min; P<0.001). No changes were seen in muscle function, loop gain, or the arousal threshold. Using multivariate analysis, baseline passive upper-airway collapsibility and loop gain were independent predictors of the reduction in AHI (r2 = 0.70; P = 0.001). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that OA therapy improves the upper-airway collapsibility under passive and active conditions. Importantly, a greater response to therapy occurred in those patients with a mild anatomic compromise and a lower loop gain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1413-1422
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Upper-airway anatomy
  • Ventilation

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